July 28, 2007 - COUNTDOWN THE LINE

TOPSPIN TOP PICKS

TopSPIN Top Picks lists the 6 players who best executes the down-the-line (DTL) shot...a very potent weapon for baseline power rallies.

6. Richard Gasquet - His athleticism allows him to squeeze in brilliant DTLs on the run.

5. David Nalbandian - This Argentine has the best two-handed backhand down-the-line shot. His controlled swing, and strong non-dominant left hand, have been key to his surefire winners. Moreover, his DTLs are often disguised, leading the opponent caught at the wrong footing.

4. Justine Henin - Clearly, her backhand is majestic. Crosscourt...down the line...name it, she can hit it.

3. Ana Ivanovic - Since this girl rose to fame, thanks to Grand Slam and Tier I strong appearances, people grew fond of her cinderella "empty swimming pool" story. Tennis court scarcity in Serbia has led a young Ana to train on an empty swimming pool, the tile walls of which are too close to the playing area, so that hitting DTLs require so much more skill. This poor situation eventually paid off, as she now is able to finish off her opponents with effortless DTLs.

2. Rafael Nadal - No ball is not returnable for Rafa. He can cover all corners of the court, to the frustration of his opponents. And despite the hustling and dashing, trust that he can squeeze in a perfect DTL winner. How many times have we seen him executing a great running passing shot? In addition, he hits the balls with unbelievable amount of spin making the ball bounce off to a direction that bids farewell to the opponent.

1. Roger Federer - Who else? It never fails to amuse us watching him make fun of his opponents running from corner to corner. Though it's easiest to attribute his perfect DTL to his big yet controlled swings, a big role is actually played by his footwork. He is always early, gaining the ability to dictate ball direction.

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